(Note: This is a letter from CCV’s friend and columnist, Isaac Gomes, from Calcutta. We already published from another CCV’s columnist, Jose Paul, from Delhi, dealing with similar issues just yesterday. In addition these issues in India, CCV has been entreating with world powers (US, Europe & Russia) that in dealing with the ISIS terrorists, patient and persuasive dialogue alone should be the way forward, not deadly missiles and bombs, which can lead only to a third world war. Islamic state(ISIS) is a misconceived ideology similar to that of our Maoists and fundamentalists in all religions (Hindu,Muslim, Christian and what not)and even those who became become PPs just yesterday “strut about pretending I am the Boss” (to use a papal phrase). They have to be met on a mental, ideological level through dialogue (the only panacea) until it succeeds. War and violence is no solution to any problem, whether international, national, regional, communal or inter/intra church related. Pope Francis has announced 2016 to be the Year of Mercy. Let it not be made into a YEAR OF MISERY. We can’t force BIG nations and BIG people who are dead set against dialogue, solely for the purpose of preserving, promoting and perpetuating their power, prestige, prominence and domination at all cost. But we little folks in the CCV – folks in Kalkotta, Delhi, Bombay, Chennai, Kochi – can start it at parish, diocesan, CCV and national levels. Little drops make the mighty ocean. We have to put our own houses – of Church Citizens all over India – in order through dialogue first. When the silent dialogue in CCV become a roar like a surging sea the powers that be will wake up to shake off their false dreams on dialogue and start listening also to all and sundry. So welcome to all our columnists and readers to join this national dialogue. james kottoor, editor)
You have my full support for your view: "I remain a strong votary of dialogue with all those who believe in the concept of dialogue to resolve issues and reach solutions for peace. This includes all political groups such as Maoists, Communists, Socialists, Capitalists, the Dravida Parties and the BJP."
But I only have one basic request to our church leaders – Clergy and Laity alike. Before we reach out to others to resolve issues let us first sincerely address issues within our respective parishes.
There are so many pressing issues which have been put to the cold storage, as if for eternity. Indian parish priests, their Provincials and Bishops / Archbishops behave in an ostrich-like manner as if nothing has happened and everything is hunky-dory! The powers that be, Laity being largely responsible for letting the grass grow under its feet, behave in such a manner as if peace prevails in all parishes and dioceses – a peace which in Indian parlance, can at best be called "Smashan Shanti" (peace at cemetery where all are dead). Most of our parishes have been reduced to white elephants and/or "Smashans" with hardly any development activity at all. Most action groups are on paper only. Parish priests are stone deaf to DEVELOPMENT CONCEPT which to them is only Spiritual. Didn't Swami Vivekanda say if the stomach is hungry for food, words of wisdom or religion do not enter one's ears?
In the Calcutta Archdiocese, the Archbishop has been sitting on a number of pressing problems, forcing the victims to the wall and go to court of law. The same folly applies to the respective Provincials, particularly the Salesian Provincial. Power has gone into their heads and they have totally forgotten the first and foremost duty of a priest i.e. "emptying oneself at the end of each day" of power and pride. Just look at the gait and gaudy mannerism of some of our missionary school and college principals. They go by the adage "I am the Monarch of all I survey" and would make even the Czars and Marie Antoinettes blush!
This is why at least in Calcutta Archdiocese, they do not have any open forums on discussion on such issues lest holes should be pricked in the big balloons of their tall claims of success stories!
Dialogue or Confrontation?
This is more evident in this Year of Mercy which is becoming self-defeating. The Church is more intent on confrontation with whoever points out its grotesque mistakes, through character assassination, threats to take away jobs if one is working with missionary institutes, not to talk of threatening and harassing the wards to no end, in terms of fee concession and promotion. The child of the whistle blower invariably becomes the victim.
There is more of cosmetic changes than of any real intent to bring about change for the better. All the big gung-ho about setting up of different Commissions (who have no power to act), Launching of Archdiocesan Pastoral Plan (in August 2015 – where many parishes are yet to comply with the Archbishop's mandate), failure or total silence over oral hire and fire especially of teachers in missionary schools (the case of Mrs Mary Dhara of Auxilium Parish being pending for three years), not allowing elected Laity Bodies to function in parishes, even closing down study centres in parishes.
Add to this indefinite suspension of Catholic teachers from Catholic Schools without going in for testing their own medicine i.e. Counselling & Discernment, victimising young girl students in the midst of examination sessions and making them leave college hostel (Jesuit) on flimsy grounds. In the process throwing their plea for Mercy out of the window – in spite of their mentioning the Year of Mercy. Year of Mercy is actually meant to project the Church on a high pedestal to non-Christians and for inter-religious dialogue! Make no mistake – Year of Mercy is not meant for our Christian brethren!! At least not in India!!! It is basically the Church trumpeting Mercy for all and in effect try to snuff out life of the downtroddenl!
To make the Year of Mercy meaningful, let each Bishop, Provincial, Parish Priest, School Principal and leader cross their hearts first whether what they are doing is really for the good of the Christian Community at large. Let them set right and put in place the basic infrastructure first – Study Centre, Health Checkup facilities especially for women and children in each parish, Career Counselling, Encouragement for Higher Education especially Professional Courses, Vocational Training for Youth to teach them how to fish instead of making them dependent on church doles (presumably a pet weapon of parish priests to keep control on the faithful!) and above all regular open interaction with common parishioners instead of going by Parish Pastoral Councils members of which will mostly say what the Parish Priest likes to hear (remember King Canute?). It is pointless to be surrounded by "Yes men & Women" for they will only be fair weather friends. It is better to keep one's eyes and ears open (especially as PP) and mix with the common parishioner to get a feel of what the parish wants and needs.
The biggest malady of all is : very few parishes have Parish Finance Committees (PFCs) which must be made mandatory as it is a prerequisite for transparent operation and accountability of a parish and its overall health.